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The Other One


Album Review: BABYMETAL The Other One

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Babymetal provoked stronger reactions than anyone this side of Limp Bizkit when they debuted back in 2015. The sight of these teenage girls dancing choreographed routines over melodeath-style fretwork sent the purists into spirals of existential dread. That didn't stop Babymetal from climbing the ladder to superstardom, becoming one of the most recognizable acts in modern metal and one of the few still pushing the genre into totally uncharted territory. Album number four sees them expanding their sound to put more emphasis on Su-Metal and Moametal's considerable vocal talent. The novelty hasn't worn off. But by the end of this 41-minute record, it's starting to show some wear and tear.

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Maybe Babymetal works best in small doses. Taken individually, any of the songs on The Other One is a confirmed banger. The metal part of this J-pop crossover group remains as heavy as any headbanger could ever hope for, even if it's often drowned out by pounding synth. While the focus remains on the two frontwomen, it's hard not to be distracted by the whirlwind being kicked up by the backing band. There's galloping rhythms, flying guitar solos and bombastic orchestration, all the elements of a great metal crossover.

But that's all stuff we already knew. The Other One continues to ride the train Babymetal started all the way back in 2015. Su-metal has taken over writing the lyrics on this album, injecting her own brand of Disney princess magic into "Mirror Mirror". Some of her verses are of questionable quality, such as the repeated "The seasons change, we are not the same" of "Believing". But on the other hand, few listeners are here for the lyrics. The Other One is all about the vibes, the irresistible urge to dance and party to the sounds Babymetal are putting forward.

Ironically, "Metalizm" turns out to be one of the most synth heavy tracks on the record. It picks up with a guitar solo and crunchy riff at the end, but it's after two minutes of dance beats. For the real heavy stuff, fans will have to go to "Maya", which opens with a lick worthy of Architects and continues to deliver djenty goodness for its entire runtime. Lead single "Monochrome" plays the same way, channeling the best of the instrumental djent sound pioneered by the likes of Intervals and adding the girls J-pop to great effect.

The problem is that so much of it sounds like what we've heard before. The genuinely heavy moments are farther between than they were on previous albums, where each song could be depended on to cause at least one instance of windmill headbanging. Here, there is stuff like "Time Wave" and "Light and Darkness", straight up J-pop anthems with only the slightest sprinkling of metal. The exceptional drummer is pushed aside to make room for synth beats that will light up any dancefloor at the expense of the musicians.

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It's nearly impossible to imagine Babymetal without Su-metal and Moametal fronting, so maybe it's a good thing that they seem to be taking more control of the project. As they approach their ten-year anniversary of their first album, people will have to get used to the idea that Babymetal are here to stay.

There's more than enough of The Other One to justify giving it a listen. But whether this will reach the heights of Babymetal's previous crossover efforts is less certain. This album seems more aimed at J-pop audiences than metal ones. One can hardly fault Babymetal for doing this, especially as Asian pop music of all kinds continues to grow its audience in the west. But it's slightly disappointing for the fans who came expecting something like the Sabaton and Arch Enemy collabs of the last record.

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